I just spent two days working with the Lab School teachers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Lab School is an innovative new middle school program which incorporates lessons in science, technology, engineering and math concepts within hands-on projects. On Monday, all the teachers tried their hand at building an in-line motor with two handmade solenoids hooked up to a small 6-volt battery. On Tuesday I taught basic pop-up construction techniques, and we added electrical circuits and LED lights to the artwork. The most exciting event was when one of the teachers, Robert Munsey, completed a working 3-D printed rotary motor. To see a short video of the completed motor, click here. Also, a student project with Robbie’s motor lifting a washer.
Four full days of classes at Pittsburgh’s Studio at Contemporary Craft yielded lots of creative projects, from architectural pop-ups and spirals to carousel and tunnel books. Two days were devoted exclusively to pop-up constructions, and eight students worked their way through numerous structures, from simple cut-and-fold pop-ups to non-adhesive props and V-folds. The next class was a two-day workshop, one day devoted to carousel books and one to tunnel books. Everyone left with finished models of both structures. Aside from that, I had fun exploring Pittsburgh’s downtown strip full of ethnic food markets and specialty boutiques. Thanks to Leslie Wright for being such an enthusiastic and wonderful host!
My weekend started with a jaunty private workshop at Olivia’s beautifully-appointed apartment and studio in Pikesville, Maryland. Olivia, Meg, and Paula, all artists in their own right, spent the day with me honing their paper engineering skills and creating a pile of pop-up models. Olivia provided us with a wonderful lunch, and we ended the session with a “class” portrait of their completed works.
On the agenda for the next day was the Hagerstown, Maryland, Literacy Festival where I was one of some 15 authors signing books in the public library. A group of four teens was a highlight, wearing their favorite works of fiction, singing “These Books are Made for Walking.”
Immediately after Hagerstown, I drove to the Howard County Fairgrounds where the Sheep and Wool Festival was in full swing. I managed to get there in time for the border collie sheep herding event, and my husband Henry joined me for a walk through the pens to see the sheep, buy a broom for our farmhouse porch, and purchase seeds for the garden.
This unusual combination of events made for an exciting weekend, ending with the planting of kale and beets at the farm.
It was a teacher workshop session filled with surprises, including trips to the darkness of the women’s (rebranded unisex) bathroom to see our lighted projects working. The workshop I gave last Friday for teachers in the Charlotteville, Virginia, city school system was a successful attempt to combine a basic electric light circuit with a pop-up card. We began working through a series of pop-up structures, then built a circuit made of a lithium battery, copper tape, an LED sticker light, and a sliding paper switch to turn the light on and off as the card opened and closed. With the addition of a pop-up, we achieved lighted campfires, buildings, and creatures. The challenge for the teachers now is to work this into a lesson on paper engineering and electronics for their summer school students. Thanks to the Noyce Foundation for funding this project and to all who participated!
Lighted pop-up by Cam Ellis, Virginia Monroe and Desmond Cormier